It’s Saturday and my sixth day of work in my work week. For over 50 years I’ve worked a six day week making. By that I mean I’ve worked building everything from my homes and my furniture, chicken coops and splitting logs: mostly with my boys as they grew alongside me. I felt sad sitting in the cafe this morning thinking about how many people split off their workweeks from their weekends and try cramming family and fun into a two-day weekend rather than a whole life into a seven day week. Saturdays are always good days in that I am usually able to switch from project to project and by project I mean split off time to write, photograph, film, ride, sketch, think. What makes me so sad is the mass of people in Britain that I know don’t really even know what a real workshop is or worse still what making is. By that of course I mean that they have never experienced a workshop from the point of view of going into a workshop where proper tools and a workbench live and exist for their use. Watching the early morning couples prodding and tapping buttons and staring at ‘devices’, in abject detachment yet supposedly in charge of a toddler or two bouncing off the walls and tables around them in the immediacy of where they are. Not noticing Jane or Harry, made me conscious of the changed lives people live in today. I say this because despite the smallness of families these days it takes two full-sized adults to entertain one child and ferry them from one social group to another. There seems to be no real anchor and yet spending time together “as a family” means corresponding via text messages of one kind or another.
My work embraces many life things. When I say work I say the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” is rubbish. It does not make him or Jill a dull person nor are they boring. If anything it might help them to understand that work can be, for want of a much better word, fun. My work is riding my my bike a few miles to clear out the cobwebs of a good night’s sleep before I arrive at my bench. With all of my children grown and having flown the coop, I find myself alone first thing in the early morning. Now that I am 69 I quite like the lack of planning for the first hour. I have no agenda for Saturdays usually. I find the day relaxing even if I do work at my workbench. In a sense it is a kind of free day in the same way my blog is a kind of free-writing where I thrash out my thoughts without concern for spelling or punctuation and at the end of it go back to make it more coherent for a reader. Work is in one sense play although I dislike the term as a reference for adults and adult work. I would rather make the connection through my own view of work which is that work, the very word itself, to me, is synonymous with interest and passion. It’s a space where I anticipate future for the day I am in. I am as excited about generating a new design as I am taking a holiday. In fact work is a holiday to me. I walk in the countryside, spend time with my family and friends and just about everything else including these things is the work I do. It’s not that I place any one thing over any other but that I bring them all up to a level of heightened anticipation through the various interactions playing in my life. All things are important to me and my work is to keep all things elevated so that crossing from a bike ride to a coffee conversation to working with a friend at the bench all have a smooth and seamless transition form one work area to another.
One of the saddest anomalies for me is a world where a week gets split between workdays and weekends and where adults and now children look forward mainly to the weekends. Mostly life today revolves around the economy of earning. In our economies today it’s amazing that what we once would have made we buy and what we buy is imported. Losing the ability to make has led to a reality that we no longer consider making many if any thing. Almost all of the things we use around the home and workplace we would never think about making. A pottery lamp and a lampshade comes in from Asia. Some bent steel rod table legs make coffee tables. I saw the same bent steel rod legs welded to steel plate in the USA two years ago and then in Israel almost a year later too. Here I am in the UK and I see the same ‘Did they all get made in China?’ I asked myself. Why did they not get made in the UK or Israel or the USA? The concept of course is for quick cheapness in rustic plank-top tables. The DIY bolt-on concept was an anyone-can-do-this.
I think it is time for us to rejig our thinking to come up with answers to family living and making and growing and cooking. These areas are the ones I have come up with based on my understanding that everyone can grow, bake, cook and make. That we should counter the depressed state of the ever depressing condition of the world and make making happen-even in the smallest way. I vlogged a little this morning to tell you what I was designing and what I was making and where I had been. I did turn my computer on but as a typewriter with keys that clicked a click sound like a typewriter. I placed my phone fifty yards away so that if it pinged I would really want to go get it if it meant a fifty yard walk.. My two bike rides were as they always are, liberating. When I ride my bike a can do nothing else but give myself to it. I think when I ride of my friends. Someone has a struggle and I dwell on it. I also planned on going over to see my granddaughter and giving her a hug and ti listen to her which I did. She lay sleeping in my arms for half an hour and my eyes traced the lovely lines where nose and cheek and chin form the same curve as a swans neck. A baby crying can seem like hard work in the zone but then when she lets her body relax to sleep we are arrested by loveliness.
So love your work and try your best not to let modern terms like weekends and teenager and facebook or WhatsApp split us up into ever greater fragmented zones. It’s all about finding balance.